So-called flight calls made by sparrows are also given regularly during the day as a contact call. Following are recordings and sonagrams of the flight calls of common sparrow species found in the Delaware Valley area.
The flight call of the Field Sparrow is distinctive, a clear, long, descending, plaintive call.
The flight calls of Savannah and American Tree Sparrow are quite similar to each other, each being short, high and descending.
The calls of American Tree Sparrow can be likened to a foreshortened (monosyllabic) Chipping Sparrow flight call (Jan, PA).
The Savannah Sparrow is a little higher and tinnier sounding than the American Tree Sparrow.
double-banded calls sound tinny
The "Ipswich" subspecies of Savannah Sparrow has a flight call that may be a little buzzier, with more modulation seen on the sonagram. For more on this go to Ipswich Sparrow flight calls.
The flight calls of Song and White-throated Sparrow are very similar to each other, but often there is a sibilant ending to the call of the White-throated and it is usually longer.
Song Sparrow, three examples.
White-throated Sparrow, three examples.
Fox Sparrow is similar to Song but more clearly bisyllabic, su-wee.
Here are two Fox Sparrows calling to each other in my backyard in Elkins Park, PA (Mar)
The Chipping Sparrow also has a bisyllabic call, but shorter than Fox.
(birds in flight, Oct, PA)
Perched bird (Nov, NJ)
Another example of Chipping Sparrow flight calls by several birds, with more variety in the calls. Most calls are distinctively bisyllabic, and are actually more likely to be confused with the flight call of the American Redstart than with other sparrows (Dec, PA).
The White-crowned Sparrow has a rising flight call (Jan, NJ)
A less-rising version (Feb, NJ).
The flight call of the Vesper Sparrow is very similar, but has a small downward curve at the very beginning on the sonagram (Oct, PA).
Swamp Sparrow has a high buzzy flight call (Apr, PA)
Lincoln's Sparrow is similar
These calls can be confused with the flight call of the Indigo Bunting, which is lower,
Buzzy flight calls of warblers are much shorter, for example,Blackpoll Warbler,(Oct,NJ)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Aug, PA)
The Dark-eyed Junco also has a buzzy flight call (Dec, PA).
Heard here with the tu-tu flock calls (Nov, NJ).
More commonly heard is a twittering call made when taking flight, often in response to an intruder (Oct, PA)
Eastern Towhee has a unique long contact call (not really a flight call), a lisping see (Oct, PA)
The sonagram time scale has been reduced to accommodate the call
Several birds foraging (Dec, PA)
Grasshopper Sparrows have a rising flight call (Oct, NJ).
(from a camcorder)
The Le Conte's Sparrow is a very rare migrant through the Delaware Valley. It has a long, descending call. This bird over-wintered near Glen Mills, PA in 2009. I observed it on two separate days for over 45 minutes and each time it called only once, when perched about 3 feet off the ground, shortly before flying down to forage.
This is the flight call of a sharp-tailed sparrow. A Nelson's (interior race) and a Saltmarsh Sparrow were feeding together and I'm not certain which one called, but the length of the calls suggests Saltmarsh, as Nelson's call is usually shorter (O'Brien and Evans). It is similar to the Song Sparrow flight call, but higher and tinnier.
Harris's Sparrow, which winters in the Great Plains, has a flight call similar to the White-throated Sparrow but it is a little lower and descending (Mar, NE).